Tuesday, June 05, 2012

When History Sneaks Up on You

 

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Johan Santana, on the Citi Field scoreboard, one out shy of pitching his first career no-hitter. More Photos »

 

 

June 2, 2012

When History Sneaks Up on You

By 

My children are not Mets fans. They had no idea what a no-hitter is. They had never heard of Johan Santana. They may not know the difference between Mr. Met and the Kool-Aid Man.

But now they have pictures of themselves at Citi Field on Friday night, with players mobbing Johan Santana in the background and with the giant scoreboard reading simply, “No-Han.” They have ticket stubs that I would not give to the postgame vultures outside the park asking for used stubs.

Someday, if they ever want to look up the day they were at the Mets game, all they will have to do is type in “Mets no-hitter,” and it will all come back to that strange, cool night in Queens.

With my wife and two children, we were four of the 27,069 officially in attendance, and four of the many more who may eventually claim to have been there. We have the ticket stubs and Facebook posts to prove it. What we do not have is any credentials as Mets fans, long-suffering or otherwise.

Sorry. We crashed your moment.

My son is 10. My daughter is 7. They had been to one or two other games in Queens, maybe five major league games in their lives. Now they can say they were at one of the most famous games, at least in New York.

The entire night was weird. For most of the game, it seemed people in the crowd did not realize that a no-hitter was in progress.

If you do not follow baseball games closely, it is easy to miss what is going on. Even the scoreboard is a mystery, written in a type of hieroglyphics that I had yet to teach my children. A player comes to bat and his photograph dominates the scoreboard. All sorts of acronyms and numbers are listed, all decimals taken to the thousandths, without explanation.

The double row of inning-by-inning tallies, ending with the R, H and E columns, meant nothing to my children.

At home or on the radio, someone, a narrator of sorts, is building the drama. In the ballpark, no announcer is telling people what is happening. No one ever said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Johan Santana has not allowed a hit!”

Which might be why a group around us, about 15 people, stood and left after the eighth inning.

It was not until the sixth inning that I realized that Santana had a no-hitter brewing, and I’m a professional sports reporter. Maybe my slow realization had something to do with spending three full innings — the third, fourth and fifth — in line at Shake Shack.

It was cool and windy. The planes taking off from La Guardia slipped into the low clouds just as they rose over the ballpark. The darkening sky began to spit while my son and I waited for burgers and shakes. I merely wanted to get back to our seats, under an overhang down the first-base line, closer to the foul pole than the first baseman, before the deluge.

Earlier, I had bombarded my children with New York baseball history. I told them about the Dodgers in Brooklyn and the Giants in Manhattan, and how the Mets’ team colors, blue and orange, were a combination of the departed franchises. I told them of the pitching matchup — a good one. Could be a fast game.

We entered and walked past the man hawking scorecards and programs. We missed the first batter. I told my son we would go to Shake Shack at the end of the second inning.

It was the sixth inning when Carlos Beltran, a former Met, hit a scorcher down the left-field line that the third-base umpire ruled foul. The stadium replay showed it had hit the line. Bad call.

Whoa! Wait a second. Santana has not allowed a hit?

I tried to explain to my children what was happening. Kids, look under the “H” on the scoreboard. See the zero? Explaining a no-hitter to people who do not speak the language of baseball is like starting with third-year Latin.

Yes, the Cardinals had hit the ball, plenty of times, but they had not reached base safely, except for a bunch of walks, which don’t count, because then it would be a perfect game, and — oh, just watch.

In the seventh, left fielder Mike Baxter crashed into the wall making a catch. The fans at Citi Field — many of the seats were empty — erupted in cheers.

It was then, with Baxter injured on the ground, that fans seemed to think something improbable was possible.

They cheered each of the subsequent outs with increasing enthusiasm. They cheered when, after an eighth-inning walk and a meeting on the mound, Santana stayed in the game. They cheered when he came to bat in the bottom of the inning, meaning he would pitch the ninth.

Nearly everyone stood. Some held cellphone cameras to record the unfolding drama. Most held their breath when the first batter lined a shot to left field. One out. Another shot. Two outs. A 3-2 count. Strikeout.

No-hitter.

Santana was lifted by catcher Josh Thole. Teammates rushed onto the field. There was probably music, but I don’t remember. We lined up the children for pictures on our phones. We lingered. On the big scoreboard, filled with all those nonsensical numbers all game long, we saw someone smash a cream pie into Santana’s face.

Finally, a language my kids understood.

Copyright. 2011. The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved

 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Making Choices in the Age of Information Overload

 


May 15, 2012

Making Choices in the Age of Information Overload

By ADAM DAVIDSON

Recently my wife and I went on an epic hunt to uncover everything possible about baby formula. We scoured more Web sites than I’d like to admit to and learned about all the options: powder, liquid, milk-based, soy, D.H.A.- and A.R.A.-fortified. (I’m still not clear on what A.R.A. is, exactly.) Then we learned that none of it actually matters. Since the Infant Formula Act of 1980, the F.D.A. makes sure that all formula is pretty much the same, no matter which one you buy.

Despite knowing this, I still insist on paying twice as much for Enfamil, which its maker claims is “scientifically designed.” (Aren’t they all?) I splurge because Mead Johnson is a 107-year-old company that has been promoting a single baby-formula brand for more than 50 years. I figure that it’s less likely to squander its name by skirting the rules or engaging in shoddy manufacturing than a company with less to lose. This peace of mind costs me about $7 per day.

Economists have a name for these cues that companies employ to convey their hidden strength: signaling. We see various forms of it everywhere, from the wristwatches of wealthy bankers to the nuclear arsenals of developing countries. Technology companies keep massive financial reserves to show potential competitors that they won’t back down in a fight. Why do people pay so much, in dollars and sweat, to go to a top-tier college? It might offer a superior education, but it definitely shows future employers that they are smart and willing to work hard. (Though it can also suggest that the student comes from a wealthy background. That, for some, is an even more powerful signal.) Sixty years ago, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay signaled their perseverance by climbing Mount Everest. Now, for upward of $60,000, relative amateurs can achieve the same thing, albeit with the help of state-of-the-art breathing equipment, climbing gear and a team of Sherpas.

Signaling is also often associated with consumer goods. In many ways, it was useful. How does anyone really know that they’ve picked the right baby formula, soda or car? They don’t, and manufacturers know that. That’s why our economy is filled with highly promoted branding campaigns that, however superficial or annoying, can be enormously helpful guides. In 1982, Coca-Cola demonstrated its market power with a star-studded commercial, featuring Bob Hope and Joe Namath, to introduce Diet Coke. Pepsi recently paid a fortune to hire Nicki Minaj as a spokeswoman. Even for consumers who don’t listen to her music or trust her expertise in the carbonated-beverage sector, the mere act of paying for a pop-star endorser sends a subconscious signal that their product is so successful that, well, they can afford Nicki Minaj. It also signals that the company is too heavily invested to turn out a shoddy product. For many, that’s a reason to choose the soda over the generic stuff.

In a way, the Minaj endorsement surprised me. I had assumed that kind of signaling was destined to be a relic of the pre-Internet age — a time when people couldn’t pull up an objective review on their phones while perusing the soda aisle. According to some economists, however, signaling seems to be increasing throughout our economy. Why are we listening to signals when we can do the research ourselves?

The Internet is, among other things, a massive, chaotic marketplace. Too much information, it turns out, is a lot like no information. “If we researched every single purchase, we wouldn’t have time to make any purchases,” says Anna Kirmani, a marketing professor at the University of Maryland. “I have better things to do with my time.”

Signaling can be a shorthand to identify whom you want to buy from. That’s why we may need it now more than ever. Hemant Bhargava, a business professor at the University of California, Davis, told me that he has been thinking about signaling as he decorates his new home. Though he is looking for good deals, he still worries about vendors outside the major brands. Bhargava recently found one chandelier for $750 on Amazon and $650 on a cheaper site. He went with Amazon. “The lower price, it bothered me,” he said, indicating that he saw the discount as a signal that the company was willing to cut every cost imaginable. He ended up paying an extra $100 for some peace of mind.

Is it better to live in an economy where there’s so much chaos that we spend more to ensure our chandelier shows up unbroken or our baby formula isn’t tainted? “Oh, definitely,” Bhargava says. Sure, there’s certainly a lot of wasteful signaling, but Bhargava says that the crucial difference is that now we can each choose, purchase by purchase, moment by moment, whether we want to research a product or just trust some signal instead. After all, the chances are good that somebody else has already done the hard work of researching any product we’re interested in. “If there is a critical-enough mass of informed buyers, that is sufficient” to pressure manufacturers to make better-quality goods, Bhargava says. “That group of informed consumers creates a force. It doesn’t have to be everybody.”

According to classical theories, signaling thrives when consumers don’t have access to reliable information. But signaling actually works far better in an information-rich society than in a poor one. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for example, is filled with numerous beautiful commuter buses that are painted with all sorts of bright, bold images — of naked women, Catholic saints, voodoo symbols, soccer players, musicians. Maintaining these paint jobs is enormously expensive. The buses need to be taken out of commission for at least a couple of weeks, and the painters demand hundreds of dollars, often more than a year’s wages in Haiti.

Yet bus owners feel the need to get a fresh paint job once or twice each year because few people will pay to ride an unpainted bus. The extravagant decorations suggest that an owner cares about his business — that he spends money maintaining his engines, tires and brakes (no small matter in a country with steep mountains and lousy roads). My hunch, however, is that many owners, short of cash, are likely to invest in a visible new paint job over invisible brake maintenance. With no external authority — government inspectors or consumer-watchdogs or online consumer forums — there’s no way to know if the signal is accurate.

The information-rich world is obviously better for consumers, but Bhargava says that it still offers considerable advantages for producers too, as demonstrated by my baby formula and his chandelier. While online competition generally drives down commodity prices, consumers have proved willing to pay more for their favorite specialty products. And there are many of them. Back when brand signaling tended to travel through broad channels like TV ads or the sides of buses, companies narrowed their offerings. They tended toward a few bland, least-common-denominator goods, like watery beer and one kind of minty toothpaste. The Internet and advances in manufacturing now allow for a much wider range of products aimed at narrower consumer interests. I might pay more for a craft beer and a bar of deluxe chocolate, but I’ll be happier than when I was saving money buying Bud Light and a waxy Hershey’s bar.

Signals, of course, can be misleading, and excessive Internet research often leads to confusion. The psychologist Barry Schwartz says he believes that many of us suffer from the paradox of choice — the more options we have, the less happy we might be. I’m not convinced it’s that simple. I feel more shopping anxiety now than I did when I just bought whatever my brand loyalty told me. But I also know I don’t have to worry about so many other purchases that I used to fret about. I just discovered that Amazon users seem to really hate Crest Pro-Health Clean Mint toothpaste. I’ll buy the better-rated one, but I do hope those ratings force Crest to reformulate or kill the one nobody likes. And I bet they will.

Adam Davidson is co-founder of NPR’s “Planet Money,” a podcastblog and radio series heard on “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “This American Life.”

Copyright. 2012. The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved

 

Banksy draws the Queen as Ziggy Stardust

Banksy draws the Queen as Ziggy Stardust

Street artist Banksy is believed to have stencilled a picture of the Queen as Ziggy Stardust to honour the Diamond Jubilee.

Street artist Banksy is believed to have created this tribute to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on Upper Maudlin Street in the artist's home city of Bristol

Street artist Banksy is believed to have created this tribute to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on Upper Maudlin Street in the artist’s home city of Bristol Photo: Adam Gray / SWNS.com

9:23AM BST 04 Jun 2012

The graffiti expert is believed to be behind the painting, which shows the crown-wearing monarch sporting a jagged red stripe, just like the 1970s David Bowie creation.

Her Majesty’s startling image – which sprang up as the country celebrated her 60 years on the throne – appeared on a wall previously used by Banksy.

Spectators stopped to stare at the stencil yesterday on Upper Maudlin Street, near the Bristol Children’s Hospital in the artist’s home city.

The wall’s original Banksy canvas showed a boy with a paper bag in his hands creeping up behind a sniper.

It was covered with black paint and graffiti tags in October last year in an apparent attack by rivals.

In February another work, which appeared to show David Cameron and Boris Johnson as rioters, appeared on the wall.

 

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The Grand Appeal, which has its offices in the building, thought of the original stencil as its own and appealed to the artist for help after it was obscured.

A piece of street art purporting to be from the graffiti artist appeared on a London street in May.

The picture, which shows a young boy of Asian origin hunched over a sewing machine, uses Union Jack bunting as an apparent nod to uniquely British celebrations.

So far, it has been interpreted variously as a comment on the upcoming Olympic celebrations, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and even the riots of last summer.

A work believed to be by Banksy appeared on the wall of a Poundland shop in May (Luke Giles)

Photographs of the work, on the wall of a Poundland shop on Whymark Avenue, Turnpike Lane, are already beginning to circulate online.

Created in Banksy’s conspicuous black-and-white style, the picture shows the little boy kneeling on the pavement and frowning in concentration while he works.

Wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sports visor on backwards, he appears to use an old-fashioned, Singer-type sewing machine to stitch the red, white and blue bunting, which extends far behind him to be strung up on a wall.

Banksy, who began showcasing his work in Bristol, is known for his satirical and subversive graffiti with underlying social commentary.

Among his most famous creations include an image of a naked man hanging from his lover’s window while her husband came home, a picture of a small girl holding a red heart-shaped balloon, and two male policeman kissing.

An artist of some controversy, his works have been much debated by councils and members of the public, in order to decide whether it should be removed as graffiti or left in situ as art.

He once climbed into the penguin enclosure at London Zoo to scrawl “We’re bored of fish” on the wall”, and has had work hanging in the British Museum.

 

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012

 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Google Has A Magic Money Making Machine

Jay Yarow | Jun. 3, 2012, 10:20 AM | 4,348 | 1

 

Here’s one thing that’s clearer than ever after Facebook’s IPO messGoogle has a magic money making machine, and it’s possible no other internet company will ever have the same sort of (relatively) easy success. 

The number one comparison point for Facebook as it headed towards an IPO was Google. Facebook, like Google, was a giant web company that had hundreds of millions of users. Facebook, like Google, was working on highly-targeted ads that could hit hundreds of millions of consumers.

But a funny thing happened on Facebook’s path to becoming Google 2.0 (from a business perspective). Everyone suddenly realized Facebook’s ads aren’t that good. And everyone realized that Facebook’s ads, while very good at targeting, aren’t nearly as powerful or effective as Google’s.

And then everyone realized Facebook isn’t going to have its own magic money making machine. If it’s going to make lots of money, it’s going to be more of a grind to figure it out.

In our newsroom, someone threw out a good analogy for Facebook’s ad business*: It’s like you’re at a party, standing around, talking to your friends, and someone made the posters on the wall advertisements. Maybe you’ll look at them, but they’re not really what you’re there to do.

Google, on the other hand, is like you’re walking through a grocery store looking for whatever you need and the advertiser gets to jump in at the last second and offer you what you’re looking for.

As Chris Dixon has written, successful online advertising is all about purchasing intent. How do you capture commercial consumer interest?

Google’s entire business is based on people asking commercial questions and giving advertisers an opportunity to provide the top 2-3 answers to the question.

That’s an amazing business. And it’s one Facebook doesn’t have.

That’s not say Facebook isn’t going to figure out a way to make gobs and gobs of money. It has 900 million users. It has a team of super smart people looking to solve a hard problem. It can figure something out.

It’s just not likely to be a magical money making machine like what Google has.

Don’t Miss: Here’s What Could Happen Next To Facebook’s Stock


*We apologize if this analogy was from somewhere else and we didn’t realize. Credit to whoever came up with it.

See Also

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-has-a-magic-money-making-machine-2012-6#ixzz1wn7TInDP

 

* Copyright © 2012 Business Insider, Inc. All rights reserved.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-has-a-magic-money-making-machine-2012-6#ixzz1wngeBkCx

 

Drew Barrymore is a married lady, tying the knot with her boyfriend of about 18 months, Will Kopelma

Drew Barrymore Ties the Knot

Drew Barrymore is a married lady, tying the knot with her boyfriend of about 18 months, Will Kopelman, on Saturday at her home in Montecito, Calif.

Drew, 37, who is pregnant with her first child, wore a Chanel gown for the affair, People.com reports. A rabbi officiated the nuptials, and a source told the mag that it was “a classic, simple, very pretty, garden-inspired wedding.”

Top Celebrity Wedding Dress Designers

Stars who were on hand to help Drew and Will, an art dealer, celebrate included Jimmy Fallon and wife Nancy Juvonen, Busy Philips and Cameron Diaz, according to People.

The event was planned by wedding planners Yifat Oren and and Stefanie Cove, who also designedReese Witherspoon’s spring 2011 wedding to Jim Toth.

Drew Barrymore ‘Slowly’ Planning Wedding

A source tells People that Drew “is finally ready for a quieter, more family-oriented life.”

The former child star has been married twice before, in 1994 to bartender Jeremy Thomas, and in 2001 to comedian Tom Green, with both those marriages ending in divorce.

Copyright. Yahoo.com. 2012. All Rights Reserved.